- Associated Press - Tuesday, September 28, 2010

MADISON, Wis. | Buck up. Stop whining. And get to work.

Clearly frustrated by Republicans’ energy and his own party’s lack of enthusiasm President Obama scolded fellow Democrats even as he rallied them Tuesday in an effort to save the party from big GOP gains in the crucial midterm elections. In the final five weeks of campaigning, he’s trying to re-energize young voters, despondent liberals and other Democrats whose excitement over his election has dissipated.

At a packed outdoor rally finishing the day at the University of Wisconsin in Madison, the president urged thousands of students to stay as inspired and involved in this election as they were two years ago.

“We can’t let this country fall backwards because the rest of us didn’t care enough to fight,” he said to loud applause.

The call coincided with the publication of a wide-ranging interview with Rolling Stone magazine, in which Mr. Obama went out of his way to chastise Democratic and liberal apathy ahead of the Nov. 2 midterm vote.

“It is inexcusable for any Democrat or progressive right now to stand on the sidelines,” Mr. Obama said. Supposed supporters who are “sitting on their hands complaining” are irresponsible because the consequences of Republican congressional victories could be dashed Democratic plans, he said.

He gave an example during a backyard conversation with New Mexico voters earlier Tuesday, arguing that Republicans would reverse the progress he says he’s made on education reform and student aid. “That’s the choice that we’ve got in this election,” Mr. Obama said, underscoring the stakes of Nov. 2.

The Madison gathering, before an overflow crowd estimated at more than 26,000, was the first of four large rallies planned for the campaign homestretch as the president tries to rekindle some of his 2008 campaign magic and fire up young supporters and others who helped elect Mr. Obama but who Democrats fear may stay home this fall. Top lieutenants Vice President Joseph R. Biden Jr. and Democratic Party Chairman Tim Kaine, along with Cabinet members, also fanned out on other college campuses to call party foot soldiers to action.

At Penn State University in State College, Pa., Mr. Biden noted he was criticized a day earlier in New Hampshire for urging Democrats to “remind our base constituency to stop whining and get out there and look at the alternatives.”

“All I heard when I got here in Happy Valley was the roar of lion. Folks, it’s time for us to roar,” Mr. Biden said, pressing his audience to knock on doors, make phone calls and commit to vote.

With the elections looming, the White House and Democratic Party are focused primarily on trying to compel their core voters - liberals and minority groups - as well as the ideologically broad coalition that helped elect Mr. Obama in 2008 to participate in the first congressional elections of his presidency.

They have little choice.

Midterm contests largely come down to which party can get out more of its backers. And polls show that Republicans are far more enthusiastic this year, partly because of “tea party” anger. Also, polls show Democrats can’t count on independent voters, who carried them to victory in consecutive national elections in 2006 and 2008.

Mr. Obama’s tough-love comments came just days before more than 300 liberal groups planned to participate in a rally on the National Mall on Saturday.

During the three-day trip, Mr. Obama also was trying to counter the notion that he’s out of touch, as well as to sway undecided voters with a series of backyard visits - in Albuquerque; Des Moines, Iowa; and Richmond, Va. - that give him time to explain his policies in everyday settings.